"Breaking Open the Word" :
James Cavanagh is the director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-Area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. His weekly column, "Breaking Open the Word," is syndicated by the Denver Catholic Register, official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver. Click here to visit the Office of Evangelization & Catechesis for the Archdiocese of Denver.
April 15, 2012: Divine Mercy Sunday
• Acts 4:32-35
Overview: The most obvious sign of Christ’s presence in the early Church was the care believers had for each other. Compassion for the poor, the sick and the outcast was one of the most distinctive characteristics of the Church and one reason why it grew so fast.
In the first reading from the book of Acts we hear how the disciples were of “one heart and mind” and “had everything in common.” The communal nature of the early Church was an expression of genuine Christian love. The mercy of God emanating from the heart of Jesus formed the believers into a generous and selfless community. Their love for each other was simply a tangible expression of their love for God.
St. John makes essentially the same point in this week’s second reading. There he explains how the love of God is expressed by keeping the commandments. When asked which commandment was the greatest, Jesus replied: the love of God and love of neighbor (Matt 22:37-40).
In this week’s Gospel we hear the familiar story of how Thomas, initially doubtful of the resurrection, is told by Christ to put his hand in his side, and believe. It was from this wound, inflicted by the soldier’s lance that blood and water, a visible sign of God’s mercy, flowed. The mercy that flowed from the Sacred Heart of Jesus poured into Thomas’ heart. It was not something Thomas could keep to himself, he had to share it with others. Having received God’s mercy, Thomas, along with the rest of the apostles, was sent to impart that mercy to the world.
Key verse: “Bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe” (John 20:27).
Catechism of the Catholic Church: “The blood and water that flowed from the pierced side of the crucified Jesus are types of baptism and the Eucharist, the sacraments of new life. ‘See where you are baptized; see where baptism comes from, if not from the cross of Christ, from his death. There is the whole mystery: he died for you. In him you are redeemed, in him you are saved’” (No. 1225).
Benedict XVI: “Mercy is the central nucleus of the Gospel message; it is the very name of God, the Face with which he revealed himself in the Old Covenant and fully in Jesus Christ, the incarnation of creative and redemptive Love. May this merciful love also shine on the face of the Church and show itself through the sacraments, in particular that of reconciliation and in works of charity, both communitarian and individual. May all that the Church says and does manifest the mercy God” (Regina Caeli, March 30, 2008).
Life application: In some Protestant churches, the Sunday after Easter is (unofficially) known as “Low Sunday” because Easter Day has priority—and because relatively few people attend church that day. But for us as Catholics, Easter is celebrated seven whole weeks. Every Sunday is special because it highlights a different aspect of the resurrection. This Sunday focuses on God’s mercy. May St. Faustina’s prayer become our own: “May the greatest of all divine attributes, that of Your unfathomable mercy, pass through my heart and soul to my neighbor.”
James Cavanagh is director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. Cavanagh’s column is distributed by the Denver Catholic Register.
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